AgencyDubai: Some 8 lakh Indians could be forced to leave Kuwait after a parliamentary committee approved a draft expat quota bill seeking to gradually slash the number of foreign workers in the Gulf country, according to media reports. The National Assembly’s legal and legislative committee has determined that the expat quota bill is constitutional. According to the bill, Indians should not exceed 15 per cent of Kuwait’s population. This could result in 800,000 Indians leaving Kuwait, as the Indian community constitutes the largest expat community in the country, totalling 1.45 million, the Gulf News reported, citing a leading Kuwaiti newspaper. The current population of Kuwait is 4.3 million, with Kuwaitis making up 1.3 million of the population, and expats accounting for 3 million. Amid a slump in oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a spike in anti-expat rhetoric as lawmakers and government officials call for reducing the number of foreigners in Kuwait. Last month, Kuwait’s Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al Khalid Al Sabah proposed reducing the number of expats from 70 per cent to 30 per cent of the population, the report said. An official in the Indian embassy in Kuwait told PTI that the Kuwait government is yet to inform the embassy about any such measure being taken to drastically reduce the number of Indians in the country. “There is a lot of talk in the media but we haven’t officially received anything,” he said on condition of anonymity. The official said the move is easier said than done as a large proportion of Indians living and working in the country can be categorised as essential services personnel. “Imagine the large number of drivers, maids, nurses, and doctors that are here. They are needed and cannot just be removed without an alternative. It is just not practical,” he said, adding that most of the job losses are happening in the government sector. Assembly Speaker Marzouq Al-Ghanem told Kuwait TV that he and a group of lawmakers will submit to the Assembly a comprehensive draft law calling for a gradual reduction of expats in Kuwait. Kuwait has a real problem in its population structure, in which 70 per cent are expats, the Speaker said, adding that what is more serious is that 1.3 million of the 3.35 million expats “are either illiterate or can merely read and write”, the people Kuwait does not really need, the Kuwait Times reported. “I understand that we recruit doctors and skilled manpower and not unskilled labourers. This is an indication that there is a distortion. Visa traders have contributed in increasing this figure, Ghanem said. The Speaker said the draft law they intend to file will propose to impose a cap on the number of expats, whose numbers must decrease gradually by stating that this year expats will be 70 per cent, next year 65 per cent and so on, the report said. The expat quota bill will now be referred to the concerned committee for consideration. It states that the Indian expatriate community should not exceed 15 per cent of the national population, which means around 800,000 of them might be required to leave Kuwait, the Arab News reported. According to Indian national Nita Bhatkar, the proposed law is quite drastic and it’s quite natural for people to panic. Their livelihoods are at stake; their futures are at stake. We can just hope that the cuts are not as huge as they are predicted to be, she told PTI. Bhatkar, who was born in Kuwait, said she expected this to happen at some point. The decision won’t just affect individuals, but will have a long-term impact on both the countries as well as their economies, she said. Anwar Hussain (name changed on request), who is working as a marketing professional in Kuwait for several years, said Indians will eventually be affected if the law is implemented. “We are told thousands of Kuwaitis have returned back home following the pandemic and the government has to safeguard their interests too.
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